Raptors’ return to face additional challenges as NBA’s sole Canadian team

Faizal Khamisa & Michael Grange break down the latest developments that the NBA league office will issue new guidelines that will allow teams to begin recalling players and Disney World has emerged as a frontrunner to host games.

Once upon a time, the challenges of being Canada’s only NBA team were things like making sure players had up-to-date passports, figuring out how to get them the “the good cable” and giving guidance on how to limit income tax exposure.

All the good stuff.

But as the momentum begins to build around the NBA attempting to resume its regular season and conduct its playoffs, the Raptors have an added layer of complication: how and where to hold what projects to be four-to-six-week build-up to the regular season resuming in early July, according to a report from ESPN.

According to reports, NBA teams will be able to recall players to their home markets beginning June 1, but that’s easier said than done for the Toronto Raptors.

Half or more of their players and staff are in the U.S. at the moment – including Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Terence Davis. According to sources, none of the Raptors who were outside Canada have made their way back to Toronto since the OVO Athletic Centre was made available for workouts beginning May 11.

And while there is an expectation that Tuesday’s news about the U.S. and Canada keeping the border closed to non-essential travel for another month won’t affect players – they would be exempt if they are returning to work – that’s just the start of the issues.

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Travellers returning to Canada are required to undergo 14 days of self-isolation, which seemingly would prevent any returning Raptors from practicing at OVO Centre – the reason they would be coming back to Toronto at all.

Similarly, if the whole roster and staff were to gather in Toronto, how would they be treated if they were arriving en masse in either Orlando or Las Vegas – reportedly the leading candidates to host the NBA in some kind of “quarantine bubble” as is being considered?

It’s a question the Raptors have taken up with the federal government and they aren’t alone as similar issues face the NHL’s seven Canadian-based teams and the Toronto Blue Jays if and when MLB resumes.

According to sources, one solution that is being considered is the Raptors taking their operation to the U.S. and centralizing somewhere there for what most expect to be a three-week training camp prior to play beginning.

Again, this isn’t a problem unique to the Raptors, as teams in other markets are operating in jurisdictions with stiffer COVID protocols than others. In Massachusetts, for example, the Boston Celtics haven’t been cleared to return to their practice facility, and teams in New York and the Golden State Warriors could also have a higher bar to clear than those in other parts of the U.S.

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In a scenario like that, it’s not inconceivable that a handful of teams train in an NBA-designated neutral location with one source suggesting a college campus could be used, although the tire-kicking won’t begin on that until dates for returning to play become firmer.

The Raptors had a 46-18 record when the league suspended play on March 11, good for second in the Eastern Conference and third overall.

It’s clear that there is enthusiasm growing around the possibility of play resuming, giving them a chance to defend the NBA title they won almost a year ago.

But it’s also clear that there are many questions to be answered with Canada’s lone NBA team having a few extra issues to deal with.

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